Cook’s got faith in young guns at back

Adam Webster. Picture: Joe Pepler
Adam Webster. Picture: Joe Pepler

PAUL COOK is happy to put his faith in Pompey’s young central defenders.

The Blues boss is content for Adam Webster and Matt Clarke to carry on their steep learning curve in the middle of his back line.

This is the learning curve they must go through.

Paul Cook

The pair are the club’s only fit central defensive players at present with Christian Burgess in the treatment room with an ankle injury.

With Webster aged 20 and Clarke just 19 it’s a youthful pairing but Cook has no problem with that, despite their relative inexperience.

Webster missed out against Luton Town on Monday as he served a one-game ban for his red card at Leyton Orient.

He will be back against Crawley on Saturday, however, after Adam Barton deputised for him against the Hatters.

Cook will be able to make additions by then with the transfer window opening on Friday.

But he is confident in the quality of Webster and Clarke as they learn on the job.

Cook said: ‘At Northampton – set-pieces apart – I thought the two young centre-halves were absolutely excellent.

‘Matt Clarke and Adam Webster were outstanding.

‘They are both on a learning curve.

‘Sometimes when you have disappointment, it makes you feel down and they think they have let people down.

‘But not at all – Matt Clarke is a smashing player and will have a really good career.

‘At times when you have disappointment you can go under.

‘They can feel it’s their fault and they have let everyone down.

‘Situations will arise like that over the season, with Christian being out.

‘This is the learning curve they must go through.

‘That’s why they are playing football.

‘We do what we think is right for everyone.

‘The youthfulness of our squad is fantastic to see. The young players here are good players.’

Cook acknowledges having a young pairing at the back will inevitably mean mistakes crop up from game to game.

That was seen at Northampton as Ryan Cresswell got the better of Clarke from a corner for the Cobblers’ goal.

Webster was then dismissed at Leyton Orient on Boxing Day for a costly professional foul on Jobi McAnuff.

Despite his imposing 6ft 5in figure, Cook feels there is room for Clarke to show more toughness.

He reckons he will need to add some extra steel to his game as he goes up against combative strikers at League Two level.

Cook said: ‘Clarke got beaten for the goal, but if you let Cresswell have a run at set-pieces, you’ve got a problem.

‘His learning curve was about learning to stop the run.

‘You can’t always stop it by being nice can you?

‘But I spoke to them at half-time and told them “that’s why you are out there playing football”.

‘It’s all part of the experience for the younger players.

‘Over time they will improve and get stronger because they are all good footballers.’